I have something I need to confess…
Fail videos are my guilty pleasure. This has come as a surprise to many. I think those who don’t know me well probably assume that my guilty pleasures would include sipping a dirty martini while listening to Bach.
No, I’m not that classy – it’s all a front. Nothing helps me unwind faster than a little schadenfreude. Enter: Fail Army.
I’m not so sadistic as to really enjoy the crippling skateboarding/dirtbiking/parkour fails; but, show me someone’s exercise band slip from under their foot and snap them in the face – I’m in stitches.
Parent comes home to find toddler has somehow covered themselves and the ENTIRE kitchen in flour? I’m dead.
I’ve experienced and heard tell of some pretty fantastic kitchen fails amongst my friend group. My last boyfriend wasn’t exactly culinarily inclined. In an effort to mitigate food waste, I once asked him if he could whip up a batch of mushroom risotto – knowing we had some tasty fungi in the fridge that was about to spoil.
I sought out the absolute easiest mushroom risotto recipe I could find and gently asked if he would be willing give it the old college try, when I was working late one evening. When I walked in the door later that night, I wasn’t sure if he had tried his hand at the risotto or engaged in chemical warfare. In the absence of a gas mask, the noxious fumes singed off my nostril hair and brought tears to my eyes.
When I finally found my boyfriend in the cloud of fumes, his eyes were red and swollen. I asked what happened and he said, “The vinegar in the risotto!” To which I replied, “What vinegar?”
“The white wine vinegar,” he said, indignant. I gently placed my hand on his shoulder and explained, “The recipe called for white wine; not white wine VINEGAR.”
Anyone who has made risotto will tell you that it requires much simmering. He had stood over the pot, simmering down a ½ cup of white wine vinegar until it was fully absorbed by the arborio rice. All the while, steaming his eyeballs right out of his skull. In the end, the risotto wasn’t exactly edible.
My friend Erin’s partner, Tim, has come a long way over the course of their relationship. When they first started dating, he embarked on a steep learning curve in the kitchen. Operating on the principle of, “Give a man a fish and feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime,” Erin was big on enabling Tim to fend for himself in front of the stove.
Early on, she gave him a brief instructional on how to make a basic vinaigrette, upon trying it on his own later, he asked her to prompt him on what came next. She offered the following clues, “it’s something that you always have and it’s close at hand.” To which he famously replied, “Milk?”
Nope. That’s not it. Olive oil.
I can appreciate that cooking is both an art and a science. Sometimes, where food is concerned, applying the same principle to a different problem doesn’t equate to universal success.
Another of Tim’s early epicurean efforts really exemplifies this truth. As you can see, the salad featured in today’s post includes fruit – peaches.
Early in their courtship, Tim wanted to impress Erin by making her dinner. Drawing on his burgeoning skills as a home cook, he improvised.
As a first course, he proffered her a salad. A salad that comprised of spinach, green pepper, tomato, Italian dressing and…BANANA. When questioned on his thinking, Tim explained, “Well you put strawberries in salad!”
How true, Tim, how true. There are salads with grapefruit, plums, peaches, berries, apples, pears and more. In principle, he’s not wrong in his thinking, but in practice, there is just something SO wrong about the mushy texture and domineering flavour of banana that doesn’t play well with Italian dressing.
This summer salad takes the fruit in salad concept to another level by throwing the peaches on the grill first. The barbecue brings out the best of seasonal peaches and lends a subtle smokiness (especially if you’re cooking over charcoal). Sweet corn, grilled halloumi, toasted pumpkin seeds and red onion all work well on a bed of peppery baby arugula. The whole dish is pulled together with a cilantro lime dressing that has a touch of heat from jalapeño and plenty of acid.
Hopefully you don’t encounter any kitchen fails of your own in attempting to make this. If you do have any gut-busting cooking fails to recount, please share them in the comments below, I can always use a laugh.
To cook the farro: In a medium saucepan, combine the rinsed farro with at least three cups water (enough water to cover the farro by a couple of inches). Bring the water to a boil, then reduce heat to a gentle simmer, and cook until the farro is tender to the bite but still pleasantly chewy. (Pearled farro will take around 15 minutes, unprocessed farro will take 25 to 40 minutes.) Drain off the excess water and mix in the lime juice, garlic and salt. Set aside to cool.
Preheat grill or grill pan over medium heat. Brush the grill with oil to prevent sticking. While farro is cooling, grill sliced peaches and planks of halloumi. Keep a close eye as halloumi will only take 30 seconds to 1 minute per side - you don't want it melting entirely and leaving a sticky mess in your barbecue. Peaches will take 1-2 minutes per side, just to give them grill marks and bring out their natural sweetness.
To assemble salad, combine 1 ½ cups of cooled farro, one full package of baby arugula, corn, red onion, pumpkin seeds, grilled peaches and halloumi. Drizzle with 1⁄3 cup of Cilantro Lime Dressing (recipe follows) and toss to combine. Add more dressing to taste. Serve!
Place all ingredients in the food processor, except the olive oil and salt. Turn the food processor on, and slowly drizzle in the olive oil until incorporated into the dressing. Season to taste with salt before serving.